From one of the worst films ever made to one of the very best – that’s the kind of dizzying tonal whiplash we live for here at Beyond The Box Set! Released in 1950, Sunset Blvd is also one of the oldest films we’ve ever done, largely due to Harry’s active aversion to black and white movies. Can this timeless classic break down his prejudices?
Sunset Blvd stars William Holden as Joe Gillis, a struggling screenwriter who stumbles into the path of faded silent movie legend Norma Desmond, iconically portrayed by silent movie star Gloria Swanson. Consumed with delusions of an imminent ‘return’ to the big screen, Desmond enlists Joe to help her to polish an age-inappropriate star vehicle, and soon afterwards as the live-in toyboy at her crumbling Hollywood mansion.
Holden narrates the movie, and it’s ostensibly his story, but Swanson dominates the picture. The American Film Industry’s top 100 movie quotes of all time features not one but two Norma Desmond quotes in the top thirty, and her image has been parodied and referenced so much that it’s still instantly recognisable to even casual movie fans seven decades later.
Controversially, Swanson didn’t win an Oscar for her role, beaten to the punch by a comparatively little-remembered Judy Holliday performance. Her film career didn’t gain much long-term traction either – having portrayed the definitive faded grande dame, she apparently struggled to be seen as anything else, although she maintained an active career on stage and television.
On this week’s podcast, we discuss some of our own favourite moments from the film, including mysterious monkeys, meta-moments and one of the greatest endings in cinema history. We also come up with some drinking games, check in with our listeners for their reaction to the film and pitch some sequel ideas to finally give Norma Desmond the ‘return’ (don’t call it a comeback!) she so yearned for…
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Next week, we’re going for a more recent Best Picture nominee, but one with a definite connection to the Golden age of Hollywood. Until then, happy listening and remember; we’re still big, it’s the podcasts that got small…